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Choosing a Nursing Specialty

There are a host of variables for new grads to consider before selecting a nursing area in which to specialize.

When a nurse, and especially a newly graduated nurse, is considering a specialty in which to pursue a career, several things come to mind. Chief among them are questions they should ask themselves, including:
  • What special certifications and furthered education are required?  
  • What will your total investment of time and dollars mean to you personally?
  • How many hospitals in your community offer services in need of that specialty?  
Geography Matters
For instance, if you want to become a trauma nurse and you live 1.5 hours from the only trauma program within a three hour radius-you might be restricted to working for one hospital unless you relocate. In other words, your geographical area really does-or should-come into play when you choose a specialty.

Keeping Your Options Open
Pigeonholing isn't something that happens only in other industries, it happens in healthcare as well.  The further specialized you are, the more difficult time you might have finding a new position.   But gaining certifications can also help get your noticed and stand out from the crowd.  Showing your passion for and expertise in a certain area can lead to positions in leadership, education, as a consultant and even for companies outside of hospitals such as medical supply, equipment, and performance improvement companies

Professional Associations
All specialties have associations which can be a very valuable source.  Setting appointments with the Directors or Managers over units where your interests lie to discuss the field would be advisable as well as asking for the opportunity to shadow others on the unit. Association websites usually have meeting information whereby you might ask to attend and get the perspective of several people in a particular practice.

Patient Populations  
As a new grad, you might start on one unit and after six months decide you might want to transfer in order to try something new.  One patient population might appeal to you and another might be one that is an extra challenge.  For instance, the pediatrics population is far different from the OR and the nursing staff associated with each often times has a dominant personality trait.

In summary, a nursing specialty should only be decided upon after a new grad takes into considerations the costs, feasibility, geographic location, personal investigation, and after gaining some experiences.

Rae Ellen Douglas is Managing Partner, Nursing Practice, Kaye/Bassman International Corp.


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